Unified Sports program models inclusion for Special Olympic athletes
Posted on 05/14/2018
FPHS Unified Sports TeamThanks to the Unified Sports program in PWCS, students with intellectual disabilities attending 10 high schools in the division have an opportunity to participate in competitive basketball games and track and field meets. Recently, students from nine PWCS schools participated in a track and field meet at Forest Park High School.

Kelly McCann, chair of the Health and Physical Education Department at Forest Park High School, organized the recent track and field meet. McCann, along with Julie O’Neill, health and PE teacher at Patriot High School, and Holly Tousha, health and PE teacher at Brentsville District High School, implemented the Unified Sports program for the Division.
“I love watching my students with special needs be successful at the activity they are doing,” McCann said. “They have so many struggles and watching them feel like a member of an athletic team is amazing. This provides lessons in teamwork, sportsmanship and lifetime fitness.”

Unified Sports is an inclusive sports program that unites Special Olympics athletes (individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners (individuals without disabilities) as teammates for training and competition. Presently, PWCS students can participate in basketball and track and field.

“The other side this program allows for is for general education students to have the opportunity to see how athletic some of these kids are,” McCann said. “They are so amazed by what some of them can do. It also provides an opportunity to interact with each other. This carries over to lunch or the hallways. You can often see the kids giving high fives to the students with special needs, which helps them feel like a huge part of the school.”

The program began at Forest Park, Brentsville and Patriot High Schools, but has expanded to include Freedom, Hylton, Potomac, Colgan, Woodbridge, Battlefield and Osbourn Park High Schools.

McCann said she loves the fact that the whole school, including the cheerleaders, color guard, and fans, come together to support the students.

“I just want my students, all of them, to look back and have opportunities that provide life lessons and perhaps change their perception of students with special needs,” she said.